Henry Herskovitz: Are Jews Manipulating the BDS Movement?
Three members of JWPF attended a presentation by Barbara Harvey, a Jewish leader of Jewish Voice for Peace and ostensible supporter of the BDS movement, to students at Eastern Michigan University at the request of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Barbara is a good speaker and focused her talk on the “occupation” of Palestine and was specific that Palestine meant the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. She said that the goal of the BDS movement was to continue “until [Israel] ends the occupation”. It wasn’t until this writer reminded her that the real goal of the BDS movement is a three-pronged demand of which ending the military occupation is only one-third, did she confess yes, that the demands of the BDS movement included (a) equal rights for Palestinians living within the Green Line and (b) the implementation of the Right of Return for millions of Palestinians exiled by the Jewish state from their homeland.
Then she talked about a “negotiated” settlement to the refugee question, as if rights are negotiable, yet alone enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She noted – as did the whistling-past-the-graveyard Professor Cary Nelson – that Israel “isn’t going anywhere”, and we wonder again why the compulsion for Jewish leaders to remind their audience of this assumption. It is likely that “Israel” did not exist when Ms. Harvey was born, yet in 66 years of its existence she’s willing to speculate – using terms meant to convey fact – that this state, non-existent in 1947, will last forever. Can someone provide us the definition of “chutzpah?”
Since her presentation was informal, I brought up the statement made by Rebecca Wilkommerson (executive director of JVP) that “The occupation, with US military and financial support is the root cause” of the violence in Palestine. I tried to ask her if a better explanation wasn’t “The root cause of the conflict in Palestine-Israel is the creation and maintenance by force of a Jewish state in a territory with a non-Jewish majority?” She cut me off in mid-sentence, however, claiming she wanted to continue her report on the “successes” of the BDS movement.
One man asked whether the implementation of all three prongs of the BDS demands wouldn’t lead to the “unwinding” of the Jewish state, and her response was emotional: “The BDS goal is not to ‘destroy’ Israel”. I spoke up and reminded her that the questioner used the word “unwind” and not “destroy”, but it appears very telling that Jewish speakers hear “destruction” when it is not uttered. Perhaps Gilad Atzmon is right when he suggests that Jews experience a false PTSD (Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder: “the stress is the outcome of a phantasmic event, an imaginary episode set in the future; an event that has never taken place.”), yet remain leaders in the “liberation” movement they have renamed “solidarity”. Now what the heck does that mean?
Barbara listed some companies that have been financially affected by the BDS movement: Elbit, Caterpillar, Veolia and Motorola. She focused on Soda Stream and reported its imminent closing of its West Bank facility and relocation within Green Line Israel. I asked if the BDS movement would continue to boycott Soda Stream and she answered that some groups would continue and others would not. Now, wait a minute! That doesn’t sound like the original BDS call to us. Let’s quote the source, www.bdsmovement.net
In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.
According to Ms. Harvey, this suggests that companies that crawl back into their hole of the Jewish state within the Green Line deserve an unrecognized sanctuary from the BDS movement that she is falsely representing. The question is open for activists: Do we tolerate this re-write of the movement’s goals or call out Jewish leaders for what appears to be the hidden agenda of protecting Jews and the Jewish state?
Does Barbara support Israel’s claimed right to exist as a Jewish state? Two of us stayed after to ask this question and to her credit she replied in the negative. But who, outside of readers of this report, knows this? We asked if this was the position of JVP, and she responded that she didn’t think so. Sounds confusing, yes? Maybe it’s supposed to be. Diligent readers of these reports can remember Anna Baltzer, National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, admitting to a small audience in the basement of a local church that she, too didn’t support this claim. But try to find Anna’s or Barbara’s public refutation of Israel’s “right” to exist as a Jewish state.
There are serious problems with a movement to liberate a country led by members of the same ethnic/religious group that is ethnically cleansing that country. We are reminded that Malcolm X refused to allow sympathetic white voices to lead the movement for black liberation in the US. Why do complacent non-Jews extol and honor the Jewish voice when it appears pregnant with hidden agendas?